Earlier this week, the first reading of UK Government’s Bill was made to the House of Lords. The proposed introduction of the European Union (Information) Bill will make provisions for information and statistics to be available in the public domain regarding the EU; and will also provide information to help further the establishment of twinning arrangements between towns in the UK and elsewhere in the EU.
The Bill will turn the following obligations into law, six months after the date it has been passed by the Government.
The Government will make the following information and statistics available to local authorities:
- Information and statistics on the purpose, scope and effect of the EU’s activities,
- Information and statistics on the EU organisation, its infrastructure and institutions,
- Details of decisions taken by the EU, and;
- Details about the Treaty of Lisbon (which is the Treaty that governs the EU, replacing earlier Treaties of Maastricht and Rome).
Those local authorities will also be required to distribute the information and statistics, free-of-charge to public libraries and council buildings, as well as making it accessible online.
Additionally, each local authority will be required to publish information on any EU ‘town twinning’ arrangement, including the forms of support offered by the EU to each town, the scope and benefits of each twinning scheme, and the procedure involved in applying for an EU twin town. With approximately 2,000 existing twinning arrangements in the UK, 75% of which are with French or German authorities, it is a big job for local authorities to complete within the expected time frame.
Although the intention behind the European Union (Information) Bill is to force local authorities to make their work more transparent, it may be a little too late considering we have less than two years’ membership of the EU remaining. Like with many impending Bills, it’s a case of wait and see until Brexit actually happens.